When I first told people that I wanted to start my own business I was met with polite but not so polite laughter as well as the, “Oh, honey, you need to get a real job.” So needless to say I can empathize with small business owners when it comes to the neigh sayers because the sad truth is that not everyone is going to be your cheerleader.

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Now, when you encounter these neigh sayers you can do one of two things. You can slam that friendship door right in their face. Or, you can ignore them and do what you want anyway. I chose to do the latter.

Fortunately, on the path to opening your own business you are bound to meet likeminded people who will cheer you on and vice versa. Stick with that crowd because believe me you’ll be better off. There’s a quote by Farrah Grey which I believe wholeheartedly, “Build your own dreams, or someone else will hire you to build theirs.”

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If you’re like me and you read this quote you’ll get really excited and won’t be able to sit still. Guess what that means.

You are meant to open your own business.

If you’re excited every morning to get to work on your business

You are meant to open your own  business.

Forget the statistics and the neigh sayers. If you have an idea, the market is in need of your niche focused business, and you have butterflies in your stomach

You were meant to open your own business.

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So, how do you get started?

First, you should figure out why you’re doing what you’re doing.

For example, I want my business to connect small businesses with each other. You can be as vague or as specific as you want but this will come in handy later when you’re writing your mission statement.

Secondly, you should write a business plan.

This is a vital step because a business plan is a synopsis of the potential of your business and it can also be what convinces someone to fund or not fund your idea.

Thirdly, social media is a must.

However, it’s best to focus on one or two platforms at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed by underwhelming results. For example, because it has a business page and is the most popular social media platform thus far, most businesses start with FaceBook.

It’s great to figure out why you’re starting your business and experiment with social media. But, writing a business plan is one of if not the most important step in starting a small business.

 

As a small business it’s hard to compete with the titans when it comes to branding. However, I’m here to tell you a few tips and tricks to come up with a branding plan for your small business.

1. Define your brand

Your brand is you. You are your brand. When you are first thinking about branding you have to figure out what your brand means to you. WHY are you providing the goods or services that you are providing?

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2. Personalize your brand

Your brand is a person. It is personal to you. You want your customers to think of your brand as a person so they feel comfortable providing the valuable feedback you desire.

3. Don’t try to mimic big companies

You are a small business. Keep it small. Don’t try to copy the big boys. Each small business is unique and you don’t want to lose your sense of purpose or your mission while trying to format your business like a huge chain or company. Your business is one of a kind so start branding like it.

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4. Speak in a consistent tone to your customers

Don’t jump around from college professor to student when talking to your customers. People will get confused. If people get confused they will leave. Keep your tone relaxed and consistent. This consistency and clarity will keep customers coming back.

5. Don’t repeat the same message over and over again

Don’t say the same thing all the time. Your customers will get bored and leave you. Figure out new and creative ways to deliver messages to your audience i.e. Videos, podcasts, pictures, info graphics, memes, etc. Stay fresh and current.

Your business’s brand is your baby. You have to teach it to talk and listen to people, to be creative, to be proud of its individuality, and you have to allow it to put its stamp on the world without gripping onto it too tightly.

Small businesses are an important part of America’s culture. However, there will always be competition between big business and mom and pop businesses.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” -Simon Sinek

In his 2009 TedTalk, best selling author and thought leader, Simon Sinek explains what makes innovative companies like Apple stand out amongst similar companies using his Golden Circle Model. Although, filmed in 2009 this TedTalk is still relevant because it still applies to companies like Apple.

The Golden Circle Model is made up of three circles with Why in the center, How in the second circle, and What in the outermost circle. Sinek defines Why as why a company does what they do, How as how they do it, and What as a company’s product or end result.

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Sinek believes that normally marketers and companies think from the outside in. However, he argues that great leaders and innovators think from the inside out. Apple, for example, he explains that their Why is challenging the status quo and thinking differently. Their How is by making beautifully designed products. Finally, their What is their computers and other products. But, what makes them stand a part from other companies is that they are thinking from the inside out as opposed to the outside in.

An example of thinking from the outside in would be if a car company said that they sell cars. The fact that the company sells cars is the What. The How is if the company said that they spend sixteen hours building a car and the Why would be because they believe in quality cars.

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The reason that the car example is different from the Apple example is not just because of a super secret strategy that someone at Apple figured out. Sinek argues that great leaders think differently than others. He suggests that Apple’s marketing strategy is appealing to us on a biological level. In essence, thinking from the inside out of Sinek’s Golden Circle model is catering to our limbic brains, or, the parts of our brain responsible for gut feelings and decision making. Working from the outside in caters to our neocortex which is responsible for analytical and rational thoughts. It’s biologically ingrained in our DNA that we are more likely to follow a movement, buy a product, or hire a service if we believe in the Why behind something as opposed to the What someone is actually doing.

The marketing takeaway from Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle Model is that to truly stand out amongst companies that are providing similar products or services to your company is to think from the inside out. First, figure out Why your company provides the goods or services that it does. To make money is not the whole answer. What is your core message? Why are you doing what you’re doing? Second, figure out the How you do what you do. Lastly, establish What your product or service is.

If companies think from the inside out it is more likely that they will be able to be innovative longer and create more unique messages for their products and services.

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View Simon Sinek’s TedTalk on the Golden Circle here: http://bit.ly/1fQ1qY0

Today, it is impossible to walk around outside or even sit at home without encountering some form of Push or Pull Marketing Strategy.

What is a Push Marketing Strategy?

A Push Marketing Strategy “pushes” a product upon consumers through trade shows or retailers.

What is a Pull Marketing Strategy? 

A Pull Marketing Strategy is an attempt to bring consumers to you. For example, through media or word of mouth.

Push Marketing in Action…

An example of Push Marketing is when manufacturers incentivise retailers to sell their products to consumers.

Pull Marketing in Action…

An example of Pull Marketing Strategies is when manufacturers use marketing promotions and advertisements of products like perfumes to “pull” customers to stores to buy their products.

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Push and Pull Marketing Strategies Working Together…

An example of Push and Pull Marketing Strategies working together is when a consumer wants to buy a perfume like Chanel they will most likely encounter Pull Marketing efforts like a T.V. commercial or a billboard. After encountering these methods a consumer might then go to a department store where they will encounter Push Marketing Strategies like perfume displays or people selling perfume directly to consumers.

Although Push and Pull Marketing Strategies work well separately, modern marketing strategies use a combination of both Push and Pull Marketing to appeal to consumers and eventually land a sale.

Another interesting strategy to approach marketing is through the lens of Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk on leadership called “The Golden Circle”.

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Content marketing is defined as,

a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience—with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

But the debate over quality versus quantity is still raging. I say quality over quantity is important because if a reader is not moved to action by what you’re writing then it was a waste of both the reader’s and the writer’s time.

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The goal of content marketing is giving your business a face, utilizing SEO, instituting your company as a thought leader, instigating customer loyalty, helping with public relations, and giving your company material to post on social media.

Five specific reasons why content is king include:

  1. SEO- The more unique and individualized your content the higher it will rank on search engines.
  2. Engagement- Quality content will draw the reader to the action of sharing or really absorbing a company’s values and/or ideas.
  3. Generates leads- Good content creates brand awareness in such an expansive market.
  4. Increases traffic- A website with quality and engaging content is more likely to receive traffic than a website without quality content.
  5. Increases quality of your product or service- Practical advices as well as usages of a company’s product or services builds a good relationship between company and customer.
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The phrase, “Content is king,” sums up some great principles for content marketing.

  1. Quality over quantity
  2. Content is paramount to social media marketing

After evaluating these two fundamentals, it is prudent to re-visit this check-list after creating your quality content:

  1. Is your content easy to navigate?
  2. Is your content descriptive and accurate?
  3. Is your content formatted to ensure easy skimming and reading?
  4. Is your content engaging?
  5. Does your content include graphics and other relevant media?
  6. Is your content actionable?
  7. Is your content relevant to your chosen search engine queries?

Although it may seem that the amount of content one generates is important, one must remember quantity means nothing unless the content is engaging, easy to read, unique, and primed for SEO. It is quality not quantity content that is an important tool in push versus pull marketing strategies.

 

 

From Fragmented to Integrated Marketing

Marketing may be integrate now, but, it used to be fragmented. In recent years company to customer interaction has developed in such a way that if a customer is dissatisfied with a company’s product the company will know about it in real time. We’ve grown so used to this constant back and forth between company and customer that we forget that not so long ago (i.e. before the 1990’s) marketing was a one way street. Companies would impress their messages and products upon people without any interaction or feedback.

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However, analytical tools that allowed companies to measure consumer data through devices like store scanners allowed marketers to figure out at the point of sale what consumers’ buying habits were. This new wave technology inspired companies to broaden their marketing efforts.

Presently, corporate marketing budgets are being directed toward trade and consumer promotions, advertising, public relations, and branding. There has been a shift away from traditional media and advertising funding allocation to the allocation of funds towards new media.

The conversion from fragmented to Integrated Marketing Communications was accompanied by a few new trends in the marketing industry:

the move from mass media to multiple forms of communication, the move from manufacturer-dominated market to a retailer-dominated, customer controlled market, the growing use of data based marketing as opposed to general-focus advertising, unlimited Internet access and greater online availability of goods and services, a larger focus on developing marketing communications activities that produce value for target audiences while increasing benefits and reducing costs

Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) Strategies

IMC is defined as:

A comprehensive plan that evaluates the strategic roles of a variety of communication disciplines and combines these disciplines to provide clarity, consistency , and maximum communication impact.

Simply put an IMC strategy is a machine made up of communications channels cogs like social media, T.V., newspaper, ect. The only way to get the IMC strategy machine to work is if these communications channels cogs work together. As a result of the combined efforts of the communications channels cogs, the IMC strategy machine generates for the audience a clear picture of a brand’s image and messaging as it relates to them.

IMC in Action 

In 2014 Coca-Cola launched an alternative drink for their original Coca-Cola drink. It was called Coca-Cola Life.

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The campaign is being rolled out across 7,000 outdoor locations nation wide with billboards, bus, and digital screen ads; these are all being supported by print, digital, experiential, and point of sale activity. Although television is not being used, the buzz on social media since the drink’s launch has been mainly positive.

Coca-Cola also launched a competition to promote their new Coca-Cola Life drink. On Saturday, September 20th, 2014, Coca-Cola put up a pop-up shop on South Molton Street in London. The shop not only offered samples of Coca-Cola Life, but, also offered prizes like a long weekend in New York. Implementing IMC Coca-Cola offered prizes to people who couldn’t make it to the pop-up shop. In order to win people would have to take pictures of themselves drinking Coca-Cola Life and post them on Instagram with #cocacolalife or #comp.

Tools of IMC

When marketers first begin to create an Integrated Marketing Communications strategy they summarize marketing, advertising, and sales tools that they will use during different campaigns.

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Some promotional tools marketers use include new media options such as search engine optimization (SEO), banner advertisements, webinars, and blogs. Some traditional media tools marketers use include newspapers, billboards, and magazines.

In addition, Marketers need to come up with a combination of new media and traditional media in order to connect a brand to consumers. This connection will hopefully lead to a strong relationship between brand and consumer. Regardless, the message Marketers put out through new media and traditional media channels needs to stay consistent.

Benefits of IMC

There are multiple benefits for companies who put IMC into place. Some of those benefits include:

  • By promoting their brand across several social channels Marketers can communicate their brand’s story to their audience
  • Implementing IMC is cost-effective because consumers are more likely to encounter and interact with a brand across numerous social channels
  • Marketers can review their progress as a whole as opposed to in fragments
  • IMC fosters a competitive advantage for companies who want to increase their sales and profits

Implementing an IMC strategy is vital to any marketer looking to create a clear and concise story of their brand across various social channels. However, how a marketer posts  is not the only thing he/she should be concerned about, what content a marketer posts is just as important. Yes, content is still king.

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Social/digital media marketing is quickly replacing traditional marketing practices. Media outlets such as newspapers, magazines, and billboards will most probably be replaced by digital substitutes within the next ten to fifteen years.

As a Millennial I can tell you that my peers and I use social media outlets such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, and SnapChat constantly. Unlike generations before us we did not go to the library, unless forced to, to do research for a paper. Libraries were basically obsolete to us in high school because of online databases like JStore and other Ebraries. Our first instinct was to look online because we wanted to know what people were saying about a certain subject in real time.

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It then makes sense that social media would then also be the new frontier of marketing. It is important for marketers to understand how important the utilization of these outlets has become to media strategies.

It is also important for marketers to understand what appeals to millennials in order to figure out the social media metrics for each outlet. Social media metrics are important because social media strategists need to be able to prove how social media investments are helping the companies they work for achieve their broader business goals.  Accordingly social media strategists need to prove a social media channel’s return on investments (ROI) in order to demonstrate why investing time and money into social media marketing is important.

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More specifically measuring ROI is necessary in proving the value of social media to your organization’s overall goals and business objectives, allowing you to clearly see where efforts and resources are being used efficiently, enabling you to evaluate where resources are being wasted, or not used as efficiently as possible, allowing you to recognize gaps in strategy, key messages, and content, and showing where your social media budget is being used most effectively, and showing areas where it can be pulled back.

 

It is a good idea to categorize the type of data you gather into quantitative and qualitative. One needs to separate data out into useful and useless data. Quantitative data is useful because when Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) are translated into the Return On Investments (ROI’s) they build a stronger, more solid case as to why social media strategies are vital to a business’s success.

Examples of quantitative data include followers, engagement, acquisition, conversion, and activity.

  1. Followers:

When talking about keeping track of followers I’m talking about keeping track of Audience Growth Rate. Audience Growth Rate is

“A refinement of new followers or similar stats expressed in percentage change over time, the growth rate of your audience depicts your social media momentum.”

Measuring the social media momentum of your business helps you zero in on important information such as Audience Growth Rate as opposed to purely your number of followers.

2. Engagement:

When measuring engagement you should keep track of Average Engagement Rate. “Your AER compares posts’ engagement with your overall follower base.” Keeping track of AER helps you to determine your target audience amongst a large crowd of followers. The AER defines your core and consistent group of followers.

3. Acquisition:

Measuring acquisition should be done in terms of visitor frequency rate. This metric separates visitors into return visitors and new visitors.

Return visitors numbers further indicate the depth of engagement and strength of your social networks. New visitors confirm that your more nebulous ‘reach’ and ‘audience’ metrics accurately depict meaningful growth.”

This metric should be monitored because it is important to understand and target new visitors and return visitors.

4. Conversion:

The conversion metric determines how to convert visitors into sales. However, it should be clear that visitors don’t want to be bombarded by your product either. A good way to determine if your efforts are being well focused is to look at Assisted Social conversion, or, visitors who are referred through various social channels.

Tracking these conversions using Google Analytics or other tools can help determine which parts of your social media strategy are affective and which are not. They also can help determine which social media channels your target audiences uses the most so you can utilize them as much as possible in your social media strategy and focus less on the social media channels that your audience does not use.

5. Activity:

One way to figure out how social media helps your business is to derive Customer Service Savings from the data you collect. One equation, for example, is:

Average Time x Costs Per Hour x Customer Service Inquiries = Savings 

Repeating this process over a hundred times could result in significant savings for your company.

Other metrics to measure include likes, retweets, favorites, shares, comments, and mentions. Measuring these metrics allows social media strategists to see how their audience is responding to the content that the strategists generate. These metrics also allow social media strategists to track and measure if they are increasing engagement on social media.

At the end of the day the world is going digital. Accordingly, social media marketing is an extremely important piece of any business’s integrated marketing strategy.

 

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Technology is constantly evolving. Accordingly, on a day to day basis our dependence upon technology grows. Therefore, it makes sense that we’d try to make our lives simpler by automating our social media strategies.

When I say automate our social media strategies I’m talking about scheduling posts and content on a computer that automatically posts when it has been scheduled.

However, automation is tricky because, although it is a huge time saver, companies run the risk of getting lost in the mix. It’s unappealing to customers to deal with a lifeless company as opposed to another person. Hence, companies should be careful implementing too much automation into their social media strategies.

Here are some helpful tips on how to put a successful automated social media strategy into place.

  1. Know when to automate and when to engage

Social media automation used the right way creates a very efficient social media strategy. However, one should not only use automation because then consumers will lose interest.

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Consumers can tell the difference between a person and a computer and they would much rather deal with a person. Complete automation can result in consumers thinking that companies don’t really care about engaging with them.

With proper use of social media automation, you can make your time spent on your social media online marketing as productive and profitable as possible.

They will then go and interact with a company who not only automates their social media strategy, but, also takes the time to engage with consumers. A good rule to follow when automation content is the 5-3-2 rule of social media sharing. This rule means that for every ten posts you upload to social media channels five are content from others, three should be content that you create, and two should be non-work related to make the company seem more human.

Three other places you can use automation include non-urgent social media posts, your RSS feed, and marketing flows. One place you should not automate is customer interaction. When customers interact with a company they expect to deal with another human being and not a robot.

2. Choosing the right automation tools

An app that I’ve come across that has proven helpful because it connects your Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn accounts is Buffer. It allows you to queue up your content that you want set up at a certain time. This can be really helpful when you are doing social sharing or content curation.

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There are also other tools like Spokal and Hootsuite. But, I like Buffer because it is compatible with so many sites.

3. Creating an automation schedule

When creating an automation schedule one should consider these questions: In what time zones are your customers located? At what times do people click on your posts and shares the most? What times are you around to engage with your customers?

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Some helpful statistics using Twitter as an example that will help you answer some of these questions are:

  • On the weekends Twitter is used 17% more than on weekdays
  • Around 5pm is when retweets are the highest
  • On weekdays B2Bs get 14% more interaction than on weekends
  • During their commutes consumers are 181% more likely to use Twitter
  • Around 1-3pm is when your Twitter click-through rate is best maximized

There are tools out there like IFTTT and Zapier in which one service connected to another service will be triggered under specific circumstances.

For example, when the weather channel predicts rain, I’ve set up a trigger so that I’ll get an alert to my iOS device.

With all this in mind customer engagement should still be a top priority. Automation is great but it won’t be as effective without a company’s effort to engage with their customers.

4. Engage in conversation

A good way to keep yourself in the conversation is by using Mention. This app is a lot like Google Alerts. You can monitor websites, blogs, and other social channels for the use of your name or your brand. After Mention finds where you and your brand are mentioned then you can reply right from the Mention dashboard. You can also set it up so Mention alerts you via email so you don’t have to have the app open all the time.

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You can also turn alerts on your phone on to tell you about potential engagement opportunities on Facebook and Twitter. Another tool to check out is TwitterChats. Some new things about your industry and you consumers can be learned via TwitterChats.

Though these apps are exciting and time-effective to use it is important to set aside time to physically engage with customers in real time to make sure you don’t miss any opportunities.

Automating your social media strategy and keeping up with customer engagement is good practice when it comes to digital media marketing. However, it is also important to keep track of social media metrics.

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Technology is constantly changing and evolving to fit our needs. Some of those changes are taking place in the realm of digital media marketing.

Digital media marketing is, the marketing of products or services using digital channels to reach consumers. It’s not just internet marketing. It also extends to mobile devices, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), social media marketing, and display advertising.

All aspects of digital media marketing are in a constant state of flux. It is impossible to go through out the day without being bombarded by company promotions via any form of digital media marketing.

Some trends to look out for in 2016 include video ads, mobile trumping desktop devices, buy buttons, the emergence of wearable technology, and automation.

  1. Video Ads

In order to make people forget that they’re dealing with a business, companies will often use videos to engage with their customers.

“Marketers have learned that video is good for more than attracting attention,” says Tyler Lessard, CMO of Vidyard. “It enriche(s) the customers journey at all stages, and it is more effective than other content at converting into buyers.”

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Following suit companies like Facebook and Bing are now offering video options to their advertisers. Google’s search engine algorithm now contains video content. An explosion of video content and measurement is on it’s way. Marketer’s, brace yourselves!

2. Mobile trumping desktop devices

Google ushers in the year of mobile by finally changing their algorithm to suit mobile needs. In ten countries mobile search was used more than searching on the web. Over 75% of face book’s revenue come’s from mobile advertising

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Seeing as desktop is more limited than mobile, mobile introduces a “less is more” mentality. The move from local to global has to accommodate the future’s 300 billion internet users who’ll be looking at the websites on a smartphone.

3. Buy Buttons

Pinterest and Twitter are the frontrunners when it comes to putting buy buttons on their sites. Google follows closely behind them by testing their own buy button. Buying merchandise from social sites is going to be big in 2016.

“While mobile commerce grew more than three times as quickly as commerce on desktop websites in the first quarter, the percentage of people who go on to buy something after clicking an ad is lower on phones than on the desktops,” says Re/code’s Joshua DelRay. “But if you let someone buy a product directly from the ad on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or Google–through, say, a buy button–the thinking is that conversion rate will improve. And when conversion rates improve, advertisers buy more ads.”

As the buy button grows in popularity marketers are being forced to adapt to a new climate in the digital media marketing sphere.

4. Wearables

According to HubSpot 28% of wearables will be worn in 2016. This means more data for marketers to accumulate. Between 2015-2019 the amount of people buying wearables is expected to increase by 35%.

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The screens are tiny on tech like smart watches. Therefore, content has to be shorter and articles have to be in a “listicle” format. Information needs to be accessible via voice command and “on the go”.

As more and more marketers crowd the web it becomes harder to stand out. 2016 will bring marketers a lot of challenges regarding finding new and alternative ways to communicate with their target market.

5. Automation

Although marketing is a  $5.5 billion industry,a lot of companies have not put in place an automation practice that works well yet. Marketers need to put automation into practice in order to keep up with competitors.

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With this booming industry marketers need to realize that they need help and to adjust accordingly. Along side automation metrics measurement is a key aspect nowadays in the marketing industry. One does not simply automate their digital marketing strategy.

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You’re sitting in front of your computer.

You’re not typing.

You’re sitting.

A thousand and one things float around in your mind and you just can’t seem to focus. So, you sit and you stare at the computer screen hoping that it’ll get you somewhere. You hope that sitting and staring at the computer will result in some kind of productivity.

But, it doesn’t and it won’t.

So, I challenge you to write a post. Write a bunch of ideas down and organize them later. Ask yourself a bunch of questions like who is my target market? Why am I important to them? What makes my product different than the other guy’s? How are the other guys doing compared to me?

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These are all questions, thoughts, and actions you should be taking as you start to set up your social media strategy.

But, what is a social media strategy?

A social media strategy is an analysis of your business that translates into the social media platforms you decide to use.

The first thing you want to do is figure out which social media platforms your target market uses and which platforms would be most likely to generate engagement.

Secondly, you’ll want to research your clients and competitors and be aware about what’s being said about them.

Thirdly, you’ll want to see how your competition is working social media and see what works and what doesn’t work.

Next, you’ll want to figure out the social environment you’re entering and be prepared to engage in the manner that is appropriate.

Lastly, you’ll want to engage with your clients while also taking all the previous steps into consideration.

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Now you’re sitting.

You’re typing.

You’re sitting in front of your computer screen focused on planning your social media strategy.

Tell me how it goes in the comment section!


Works Cited
Baer, Jay. “Social Media Strategy in 8 Steps.” Convince and Convert Social Media Strategy And Content Marketing Strategy. Consulting Media, n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2016.
Devitt, Niall. “The 10 Steps In Developing A Strategic Social Media Plan For Your Business.” The 10 Steps In Developing A Strategic Social Media Plan For Your Business. LinkedIn, 10 Mar. 2014. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.
Foster, Jeff. “How to Build a Social-Media Strategy That Works.” Entrepreneur. Adobe, 12 May 2015. Web. 08 Mar. 2016.
McEwen, Mandy. “8 Steps to a Solid Social Media Strategy.” 8 Ways to Generate Leads Online. #8WaysBlog, 25 Nov. 2014. Web. 08 Mar. 2016.
Rampton, John. “Why Most Social Media Strategies Fail.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 22 Apr. 2014. Web. 08 Mar. 2016.
Whitfield, Mackenzie. “Planning A Social Media Campaign.” San Francisco PR, Marketing, Digital & Social Communications. Harden Communications Partners, 2016. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.

 

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